• Michael Cann

Wave Hunting (not for the faint hearted)

As someone who offers extraordinary services, you are unusually open to new experiences. You are probably an expert at diving into the sometimes-dark and disorienting parts of your inner world. If you weren’t prepared to go there, it is unlikely you would ever have developed the imagination to offer something truly extraordinary.

But all strengths in one context can be weaknesses in another. What works well for someone who creates transformational spaces can work badly when it comes to marketing.

It’s likely you are used to finding solutions to problems by looking inward; by taking maximum responsibility for yourself; by wielding a sword of inner clarity that has been forged in the furnace of profound initiatory processes.

You bring a powerful inward orientation into your personal development. It is the very thing that makes your transformational spaces so strong. This is a stage on which you shine.

So, when you have a problem with your marketing, your first instinct may be to go inward; to resolve some emotional obstacles; to become better at describing your work; to find the inner barriers that push people away; and to find comfort in the company of people who share your outlook and approach.

It may be profoundly beneficial to do all these things.

But be careful that your penchant for personal development doesn’t veer into perfectionism and procrastination. And be careful you don’t spend all your time in the comfort of people who already think like you do.

If people needed to have their shit sorted out to have customers, then every entrepreneur in the world would be the most highly functional, responsible and actualised human being you could imagine. And, there would be almost no businesses.

When you work in sales and marketing in a conventional business, you realise that mistakes are made all the time. Customers are lost all the time.

You forget to call someone. You push too hard. You don’t push hard enough. You turn up on the wrong day to give a quote. You didn’t click with someone.

Maybe your pet dog died but you went to work anyway to keep up appearances. Then you realised it was pointless because no one wants to buy stuff from someone who is depressed and distracted. You would have been better off staying at home and doing your grieving properly.

And you know what? It works anyway.

If you had to do all your communications perfectly; if you had to present yourself impeccably every single time; if you had to have an ideal emotional and mental state every moment of your marketing life, it would never work in the real world.

The world of conventional business forgives loads of imperfections - ranging from relatively benign things like beginner’s incompetence through to more sinister things like wilful irresponsibility.

Where does this resilience come from?

Certainly not from personal development. Personal development is not marketing.

It comes from the fact that ordinary businesses are riding reliable waves of demand.

In a conventional business, you can fall off the surfboard multiple times every day because the waves are still there to be ridden. You just get back on the board and do better next time. No matter what you do, every day there’s another bucket of people who want their windows repaired. And the more times you get knocked off your board, the better you get at staying on.

When you are riding reliable waves on an ocean of demand, you enter a rapid learning environment that is so rich in meaningful feedback that any sincere person can become competent.

It is relatively straightforward for ordinary businesses to find waves of demand, because the demands they are meeting are already consciously expressed in the culture.

On the other hand, for extraordinary offers, demand is not yet consciously expressed. It must be invoked, revealed and invited.

90% of your skill and effort in marketing needs to be in finding waves. Only 10% is in riding them.

That’s a big deal for extraordinary entrepreneurs.

Mostly, you spend 90% of your effort trying to ride waves you haven’t even found yet. Then, when it doesn’t work, you expend a huge amount of emotional and mental energy nit-picking your wave-riding technique instead of doing the one thing that would actually work - finding a surf beach with real waves.

The very thing that makes you excellent at your transformational work - your determination to navigate your inner world with uncommon amounts of clarity and responsibility - takes your attention away from where it sometimes needs to be for marketing.

So, keep up the good work internally... AND... make sure you make time, every day, to look outward; to scan the horizon; to be curious about the world outside.

To start, I recommend the following practice:

At least once a week, speak to someone who could potentially be a future customer. Your only mission is to listen to them. Do not tell them about your work. Seriously. If asked about your work, say “I don’t want to talk about that right now” and take the conversation back to their experience.

Then, sit down and write answers to the following questions

  • How would this person describe themselves?

  • What do they currently want to talk about?

  • What do they currently say about that topic?

  • If they could say everything they really want to say about that topic, what would they say?

  • What doesn’t work for them about that topic? What are they angry about in relation to that topic?

  • How have they learned to be cynical to hide their heartbreak, and to numb the pain they feel about that topic?

  • What will be the cost if they continue to live with this cynicism?

  • If they were being really critical of you, what are the worst things they would say about you and your offers?

  • Where do they gather with others to discuss their preferred topic?

  • What do you know is possible in their experience, even though they haven’t discovered it yet?

  • What was your own experience of discovering those possibilities? How exactly do you know that it is possible?

  • Do you deeply care about this person’s experience in relation to this topic?

Allow 1-2 hours of uninterrupted reflection time on these questions.

The apparent simplicity of the questions belies how provocative and difficult they can be to answer properly.

Wave hunting is not a game for the faint-hearted. It takes real determination to give your attention to this task, and you will be changed by the conversations you have and the clarity you gain.

But before you know it - usually within 6 conversations - you will be seeing real waves.

And then, finally, you will get to address two other really important questions:

Do you want to ride this wave? And if so, how will you do that?

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